Ukraine shuts down ports as conflict threatens grain supplies

Ukraine shuts down ports as conflict threatens grain supplies


Ukraine’s military has suspended operations at its ports after Russian forces invaded the country by land and sea, an adviser to the President’s Chief of Staff reportedly said on Thursday, as concerns grew about the flow of supplies from one of the world’s top exporters of grains and oilseeds.

Russia had earlier suspended movement of commercial vessels in the Sea of Azov until further notice, but kept Russian ports in the Black Sea open for navigation, sources said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised “a special military operation” against Ukraine on Thursday to eliminate what he called a serious threat, saying his aim was to demilitarise Russia’s southern neighbour. 

“The market is still struggling to get a clear picture about the actual military situation on the ground. The ports in the Azov and Black Sea so far seem not to have been damaged according to the initial shipping agency reports,” one European grain trader said.

“The next stage which will have to be faced is any declarations of force majeure, if ships simply cannot be loaded and contracts cannot be fulfilled,” the trader added.

Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, mainly ships its grain from ports in the Black Sea.

The Sea of Azov is home to shallow water ports of smaller capacity.

Maripol, the most important Ukrainian port in the Sea of Azov, mainly handles relatively small ships of between 3,000 to 10,000 tonnes deadweight.

The ports in the Sea of Azov mainly export wheat, barley and corn to Mediterranean importers like Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon.

“These countries would be compelled to seek alternative supplies if ships are stuck and cannot depart in the near future,” another European trader said.

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